Township Watch - July 2021

The following index should help you in locating an article of particular interest


The Muskoka Ratepayers would like to congratulate Rachel Mulholland on her appointment as Secretary Treasurer for the Committee of Adjustment.

General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Parking on Beaumaris Road

Carolyn Wales spoke to committee on behalf of herself and other water access residents regarding removing the two-hour parking limit on Beaumaris Road from St. John’s Anglican Church to Tondern Road. Although free parking is available at the Milford Bay Community Centre for 72 hours, it is a two-kilometre walk to the public wharf which can be a safety issue in the dark. Also, those with physical limitations are not able to do so. Those affected by the lack of public parking are willing to work with the Township to find a constructive solution to the problem, even suggesting that there be paid permit parking at the Community Centre. Ms. Wales stated that they wish to work in a positive fashion to resolve the parking situation.

This item was a public delegation, and no resolution was read.

Parking on Marina Road

Chair Zavitz explained to those attending the electronic meeting that the by-law which bans parking on Marina Road was passed transparently. The item was heard by the General/Finance Committee in July 2020, was ratified by Council in August 2020 and No Parking signs were erected on Marina Road on Walker’s Point.

Island property owners were upset to find that they could no longer park along the roadway and delegated explaining:

  • the by-law to post No Parking signs on Marina Road was reactive and not proactive,
  • the by-law worsened safety on Marina Road instead of improving it,
  • effected parties were not consulted before the by-law was passed,
  • the by-law has caused a division in the community,
  • the by-law contravenes the Township Code of Conduct as no staff report was completed and no consultation occurred,
  • the No Parking signs were installed after Thanksgiving when islanders had already left Muskoka for the season,
  • EMS have never been blocked when trying to travel the road,
  • this by-law has “pitted” islanders vs mainlanders, and
  • that a moratorium should be placed on the by-law until islanders are consulted.

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking explained to Committee that the Highway Traffic Act allows parking on roadways unless a by-law is passed prohibiting it. Mr. Becking stated that Marina Road is seven metres wide which, although tight, does allow a width of three vehicles. Fire Chief, Ryan Murrell added that although the fire trucks are 2.4 metres wide, they do “like to have room to open the doors” and that it would be helpful if they met another vehicle on the road if that vehicle would reverse out of the way and not require the fire trucks to do so. Before providing further comment staff said that they would need to further evaluate the situation.

Committee then held a lengthy in-depth discussion voicing that:

  • on two separate occasions traffic was completely blocked on Marina Road,
  • many cottagers on Marina Road had complained about the roadside parking,
  • parking on the roadway is a safety issue,
  • the No Parking signs were installed on August 18th, 2020, and not after Thanksgiving,
  • cars have continued to park on the roadway, and no one complained until tickets were issued,
  • the Township should review No Parking on Marina Road,
  • overflow parking on the road used to be approximately six cars, but that has increased to 35 cars,
  • it is a “very tight” road to drive with vehicles parked on the roadway,
  • the road is very narrow is some places,
  • the Township created this problem by passing the by-law and taxpayers are asking that it be changed,
  • waiting for a staff report would not help the situation this season,
  • the Township should obtain a legal opinion before removing the No Parking signs, and
  • mainland property owners who wrote in were told there would not be a resolution on the matter at the meeting.

Committee decided that “bags” should be installed over the No Parking signs until a full staff report could be received by Committee in August. It was suggested that due to time restrictions, this item should be moved directly to the afternoon Council meeting to be voted on. As the motion was not included in the public agenda, procedure required that a 2/3 majority vote be obtained from Committee to consider the motion without notice. The motion without notice was defeated and did not proceed to Council.

The by-law regarding No Parking signs on Marina Road “stands as is”.

License Agreement - Dock on the Moon River

An application was received by the Township for a license agreement for a floating dock on a road allowance leading to the Moon River on Moon River Road. The property associated with the application, 1168 Moon River Road, is a commercial property that has been in business since 1937. Although the dock was installed on a road allowance, no member of the public has ever been denied access to the Moon River. A private citizen, Carol Brookes, spoke to Committee stating that a prior license agreement was granted in August 2020, prior to the property being sold, for a dock that had been in place for 18 years and there was no evidence to reject the current application. The new owner admitted that he attached the dock before approvals were in place not knowing the process that had to be followed. He has since removed the dock.

Those concerned about the license agreement voiced concerns stating that:

  • public spaces are supposed to be public spaces,
  • residents in the area have felt uninvited to use the area for years,
  • the dock will give the property the status of waterfront, but they will not have waterfront taxes,
  • the approval of the application will affect property values in the area, and
  • limited public access exists to the Moon River.

Clerk Cheryl Mortimer explained that although a license agreement for this property was approved by the General/Finance Committee and approved by Council before the agreement was signed the property was sold. License agreements are not registered on title, so therefore do not go with the property.

Committee members raised concerns including:

  • according to air photos there was no dock on the property prior to 2008,
  • in 2008 there was a small dock on the property which has increased in size several times over the years,
  • people who live in the area feel like they are intruding when trying to use the public property,
  • that this property used to be a family compound, not shared ownership,
  • not being in favour of a large dock that would allow boats but would not be opposed to a small swim dock that allowed for public access, and
  • allow this area to go through the Recreational Master Plan.

A resolution to allow for a license agreement for the dock on an original road allowance was read and was defeated.

Council - Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Bala Falls Bridge

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking explained that staff had been asked to return to Council with expansions on the designs for the Bala Falls Bridge. Mr. Becking further explained that from his perspective he was happy to have the plans shown to the public to obtain public input. Once public input is received and reviewed, staff will return to Council with a further report. Mr. Becking stated that he was hopeful that the report would return to Council in a couple of months. The existing bridge and conceptual drawings can be seen here - Bala Bridge Bala Bridge Drawings

Councillors agreed that it was time to seek public input. A resolution to do so was read and carried.

2021 Bala Cranberry Festival Requests

Concerns were raised regarding the use of the Bala Community Centre during the event with current COVID restrictions. Director of Public Works, Ken Becking stated that he felt the concerns were well founded, but he did not have the necessary answers. Events like the Cranberry Festival were permitted with the new Provincial regulations. Mr. Becking said that staff would work with the festival planners and comply with all health unit requirements and if there were any significant concerns, he would bring them to Council’s attention.

A resolution stating the costs related to staff time to assist with waste collection and the rental of the Township facilities be the responsibility of the Bala Cranberry Festival was read and carried.

Senior Management Team Reports & By-Laws

The remainder of the senior management reports were read and carried with little discussion. These reports included but were not limited to:

  • awards of tender for bunker gear and self-contained breathing apparatus,
  • request to erect artwork at Windermere Village Hall,
  • a by-law to regulate traffic, and
  • community flag raising.

Zoning by-laws were reviewed by staff and resolutions were carried.

Planning Committee - Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Rogers Communication Tower

A representative from Forbes Bros Ltd, Susan Duncan representing Rogers Communication, was before Committee regarding a proposed cell tower to be located at 3336 Highway 141. The proposed tower is to be a steel frame 60 metres in height which would allow for co-locations to be added to it. Although not a monopine tower, Transport Canada has confirmed that lights will not be required. Ms. Duncan explained that Rogers requires a new cell tower in the Township to increase their coverage and to increase capacity as the number of people using the service is causing slow-downs.

Staff recommended to Committee that a letter of concurrence be provided but voiced concerns that a portion of the property at 3336 Highway 141 is zoned “scenic purposes”. Although the tower is not to be constructed on the area of the property zoned scenic purposes there is a concern that views might be impacted. Staff further stated that they would prefer that the tower be a monopine tower.

Although Committee members were supportive of a cell-tower in the area, they voiced concerns regarding:

  • a steel tower “does not do it” compared to a monopine tower,
  • the view from the lake of the tower, and
  • a desire to see the view of the proposed cell-tower from Lake Rosseau, and a monopine tower as an alternative.

Committee requested that Forbes Bros Ltd return with a monopine design. No resolution was read.

Bell Telecommunication Tower

A representative from CanAcre, Matthew Milligan on behalf of Bell Telecommunication, presented to Committee their proposal for a 29.9-meter high monopine cell tower to be located at 4300 Aspdin Road on the north shore of Skeleton Lake. The proposed tower will not require lighting and will allow Bell to address the network capacity issue that exists due to distance between present towers. Mr. Milligan informed Committee that Bell’s original proposal of a self support tower 60.8 metres in height received a tremendous amount of opposition from local residents. Bell heard the concerns of the 149 who submitted comments against the proposed tower during the public consultation and re-designed their tower.

Jeff Crocker, the President of the Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization spoke in support of the new monopine tower stating that although it is still visible, the community is pleased with the changes that have been made. Mr. Crocker offered the Planning Committee some “lessons learned” from this experience, stating that:

  • the Township’s policy regarding cell-towers needs to be updated now,
  • cell-towers should be restricted to monopine towers especially those located with 2000 metres of a lake,
  • notice of cell-towers within 2000 metres of a waterfront should be given to all property owners on a lake not just to those residents in 1000 metres of a proposed tower, and
  • service providers should engage with lake associations so more “win/win” outcomes are achieved.

Committee members did not have any questions or comments following the presentation. A resolution to provide CanAcre with a letter of concurrence was read and carried.

ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers congratulates both the Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization and Bell for working together to find an acceptable solution.

Site Alteration and Tree Preservation By-Law Discussion

Prior to hearing those registered to speak on site alteration and tree preservation, Chair Bridgeman asked the Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, to review the by-law enforcement and fine process. Mr. Pink explained that the Township’s complement of by-law officers has recently increased to two full-time and one seasonal which has been of great benefit and that by-law enforcement is a hot topic. When complaints are received, they are investigated in a prompt fashion. Those filing complaints might find the process frustrating as the Township needs to investigate complaints from all aspects.

Options available to by-law officers are:

  • do nothing if no infraction is found,
  • educate landowners if the infraction is minor,
  • issue tickets/fines with a maximum fine of $1,000.00 as set by the Province,
  • lay orders against a property such as an order to remediate illegally removed vegetation, or
  • issuing charges that are heard through the courts.

Mr. Pink said that since the by-laws were put in place in 2008, he has been involved in two charges being laid. So far in 2021 four charges have been laid.

In response to a previous suggestion, Mr. Pink informed Committee that the Chief Building Official does not have the authority to revoke a building permit or issue a stop work order unless a project contravenes a work permit, which contravening the site alteration and tree cutting by-laws, does not.

Four delegations spoke raising concerns, including but not limited to:

  • what lessons can be learned from the tree cutting and site alteration on Sugarloaf Island on Lake Joseph,
  • how can the Township ensure a property is reforested and re-vegetated properly,
  • contractors working in the Township should be licensed,
  • builders at a minimum should be registered with the Township,
  • registering builders is a chance to educate them on Township by-laws,
  • Muskoka’s unique natural environment is being destroyed by irresponsible development and reckless destruction,
  • Council can set restrictions on site alteration and tree preservation,
  • adopting a blasting by-law, and
  • obtaining legal advice on what can be done regarding building permits if the site alteration and tree preservation by-laws are breached.

Due to an unstable internet connection at the Township office, the meeting was adjourned and reconvened at 9 AM on Friday, July 16th, 2021, for Committee to hold their discussion. Committee members felt:

  • that education of property owners is part of the problem,
  • once educated on the site alteration and tree preservation by-laws hopefully the “culture” will change,
  • it is Council’s mandate to enforce by-laws,
  • perhaps island properties should be changed to 400 feet from the waterfront not 200 feet,
  • it would be interesting to know how many building permits are “offside”,
  • real estate agents and contractors need to be educated regarding by-laws,
  • the Township should not be asking associations to educate their members on by-laws. That is the Township’s responsibility,
  • the days of self policing Muskoka has to stop,
  • real consequences need to be put in place for those who breach by-laws,
  • an external communication strategy is needed,
  • licensing contractors will change building in Muskoka, and
  • being licensed would not be mandatory.

During Committee discussion Mr. Pink clarified that he hopes the majority of properties do comply with the Zoning By-Law and not all the waterfront is “under attack”. Mr. Pink agreed that the site plan by-law needs to be updated but explained that islands are not currently included in the by-law. Islands on Lake Joseph are an exception as the entire lake is subject to site plan control.

Mr. Pink further explained to Committee that a licensing regime would require a substantial amount of work. Staff in the Planning, Building and By-Law Departments are currently overwhelmed with a large number of projects. Mr. Pink will speak to By-Law Enforcement, and Rob Kennedy and staff will return with a report.

There was no resolution attached to this item.

ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers reminds our members that it falls on each of us to protect the unique nature of Muskoka. Before cutting trees or altering your property please ensure that the work is permitted.

District Council - Monday, July 19th, 2021

As reported in the June Township Watch - Township Watch - June 2021 - the Engineering and Public Works Committee voted on a new waste management strategy in June in an attempt to improve the District’s diversion rate to the landfill from 35%. Their recommendation was ratified by District Council this month and changes will begin in 2022.

The Muskoka Ratepayers Yearbook
will be sent electronically this year.
Watch your inbox for it!

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

Powered by ECMS Horizons